How did people live during the Iron Age? Archaelogists have studied this with the help of findings from Gene fornby and they have now rebuilt the farm as it was during the general migrations time. You will find many questions and many answers in this article.
Since the archaelogocal excavation at Gene in Örnsköldsvik which is in Sweden started in1977 and until today many people have been engaged, first in the archaelogical excavations and later in the construction of the Iron Age yard.
On the 8th June, after nearly 4 years of work, the inuguration of the big longhouse could take place. The aim was to recreate a part of our antiquity, both in a local and European prospect. The Iron Age yard in Gene is a representative of the older residental agriculture because it is famous to the archaelogical research in the whole of northern Europe. The yard represents the beginning of northern European culture which is an agriculture. You can find the understanding to many of our customs, trades and structure buildings. The aim was to get practical testpossibilities for the interpretations which already had been represented by Per H Ramqvist in his treatise about Gene and to examine further interpretations that the practical work would lead to. The object of reconstruction was the longhouse (house II) and the smithy (house VI) in Gene. The aim with the construction has been to examine if the work would lead to new knowledge and increased understanding about the Iron Age houseconstruction and to get an Iron Age environment for pedagogical and tourist activity.
In 1977 a new esate was going to bebuilt in Gene but the archaelogical preliminary investigation showed that there were graveheaps there. Umea university got grants for research and started to search fore more findings. The first they found were the graveheaps and fireplaces which they took carbontests on so they got to know which age they were from and it showed that they were older than they had thought. They are still searching for findings and are going to build a new house this summer -98. The oldest finding they have found is a harpoonpoint from the Stone Age.
Between the year 0-500 the first period counts and in that period there were 3 houses at the Geneyard. Later (the second period after the year 500) they built 4 more houses and the archaelogists at Gene fornby have built 3 houses and are going to build the fourth house during the summer of 1998. They have built house II and that's a dwelling-house, house XIV which is a pithouse and house VI which is a smithy.
At the foundations first meeting in March 1991 it was decided that the reconstruction work would begin with the younger of the big longhouses (house II). The house is nearly 40 meters long and has curved longsides and is widest at the middle, about 9 meters between the walls. In the gable sides the house is only about 7 meters wide. The roof was highest in the middle and towards the gable a bit lower. The oldest longhouse (house I) was divided into six rooms with south: working room, dwelling, to stables of which one for cattle, storage and in the north a cooking room for preparation of animal fodder. To build the house they needed 5 tons of birch bark.
During the 24th January to 8th February 1998 this year they made an experiment at the yard's longhouse. There were 100 persons who took turns to sleep, have a fire and do the cooking in the fashion they did during the Irontime. The aim of the experiment was to examine if it was possible to live in the house or if it was wrongly constructed. The house should be warm, there shouldn't be any smoke in the house from the fire and the children should be able to play freely. The main result was that the roof was constructed the wrong way in the inside. That has now been changed and the low temperature on the earthen-floor is the cause for the thought that the Ironage people had a plankfloor. The fire didn't work so well. They just got an efficiency of 10-15% of the fires warmth.
The archaeologists think that the people left the yard on grounds of trouble times with war and folk-migrations but it also had to do with the raising of the country. The yard came longer away from "Moälven" and of that not so central any more was because as we know that the houses looked like they have been built up now because they have found black spots in the ground that show were the poles were and that way they have got the answer to the question what the houses looked like. The roof of the longhouse is the most preserved in northern Europe. They started to build the yard in Gene in 1991 and they are still building to day.
Bettan, who we have interviewed, is working as a museum pedagoge on the yard and she prepares for study visits from schoolclasses and takes care of tourists and shows them around. Three people are working there, one full-time and two half-time. In the winter when there is snow they work at the yard with research and marketing and they make plans for the summer.
Bettan participated in the living-experiment, she thought it was a very nice experience. Everything was so calm and peaceful. The experiment gave them more questions to find answers to. About three thousand school-pupils and nine thousand tourists visit the yard each year. During 1997 there were 14 000 people visiting Gene Fornby. Mostly families with children and pensioners visit the yard. When you visit the yard you can go on a guided tour, test different techniques and cook dinner the way they did it at the Irontime. Now for the summer of 1998 they will build a new house-store on the yard using Iron Age-tools. The discovery of the yard in Gene has made influence on the history of northen Sweden very much. The farmers who were belived to have come around 800 already came the year 0. Big poles hold up the roof which is the living-room in the longhouse. They have peat to insulate the roof keep the warmth and in the north part of the house they have roof-wood which does not insulate so well but can keep for 100 years.
They know for sure that the people left the house during the 6th century. That the house was left is supported by the fact that the youngest houses (I, IV, VI) haven't been affected by the activities during recent time. The people have left the house deliberatly and it is also clear that the reason was not war or another catastrophy. They have been explaining house number III like this: During 13th century they built a new house of logs on the Iron Age settlement and that was house III. They don't know how long this house was there on Genesmon. After they had moved the house to.The place where Gene is now they used Genesmon as an outlying land. But the separate houses the low phosphate substance and the small number of findings indicate that it was of short duration. After the longhouse(II) burned down they built another house just like it and that is house(I).
There were between 10-15 persons who lived in a big-family at the village during the Iron Age for generations. They lived on hunting, fishing, agriculture and on trade. 40% of the food they got from the nature and 60% from the farm. They hunted seals and the people cultivated barely, some flax, oats and maybe turnips and greypeas. They had 8-10 cows, pigs, dogs, horses, 20 sheep or goats and maybe cats. The archaelogists are not really sure if they had cats because it's very difficult to see the difference between the bones from a cat and a polecat. The archaelogists know that the animals were smaller during the Iron Age than now except for the horse. The archaelogists have found 14 graveheaps and 6 of them are excavated and 4 of them were women. They belive that they only have found the headmen. They don't know where the other people are burried, if they are burried. Many believe that the people who lived there were pygmies but they were not. They were as tall as we are. They didn't walk around like nomades but lived for generations at their farm.
During the investigations around 1000 private findings have been made. The findings show the activities on the farm ,iron things in association to the smithy, mouldings. Compared with the following period the findings are relatively small on the farm from the older Iron age.The most common types of findings are rivets and nails , but they have not been found such an extent that you can say that they have been used when they built the house.
Something that was common to find in the era of the Great Migation graves are combs.
Map showing the main structures at the sedentary site on Genesmon.
Gene fornby's homesite
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